My Reading Life: with Monica Dombrowski


What are five books you loved? For one of them, why did you love it?

Recent Reads: The Nightingale, A Man Called Ove, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Sleeping Beauties, and One Second After. Saying I loved One Second After sounds sadistic, but I had no knowledge of EMP’s and how much they could destroy before I read it. I’m seeing the world a little differently now, because of that one.  

What is a book you didn’t like, and why?

The Grapes of Wrath… I found it draggy and it didn’t hold my interest.

What is a funny/interesting/unique anecdote about you as a reader?

I’m a die-hard audiobook fan because it’s hard for me to sit still and read! I love being able to listen while driving, working out, and doing chores.

How did you first fall in love with books?

By going to the library! My family went ALL THE TIME. When you’re poor, it’s the one place when you can always find entertainment for free.

What book or books are you planning to read soon?

The Diviners series by Libba Bray. I loved book one, but now I am patiently waiting my turn for #2 in Overdrive.

What book do you always recommend?

It depends on the person and what they’re looking for. I try not to think ahead before people talk and just let the conversation wander where it will. Something always seems to pop into my mind at the right moment. I do try to make a lot of people read The Jungle, though, because it paints such a vivid picture of the immigrant experience in America and family and Chicago at the turn of the century. I love my adopted city (Chicago) so much.

What book/books changed the way you see the world and your place in it?

Lots of them, which is why I read! One that had a really profound impact on me in the last few months was The Hate U Give. I sobbed my way through it. Brilliant writing and such an authentic voice. Heartbreaking.

What was your favorite childhood book?

The House with the Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs.

Do you have any favorite literary journals?

No.  

Have you ever read anything that made you think differently about fiction/nonfiction?

No. I used to only read non-fiction and classics but I’ve switched over to fiction more in the last 5 years.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. It’s a masterpiece. I cried for 3 days straight after reading that one and have been haunted by it ever since. A beautifully-written tragedy that follows the rise of a country girl at the expense of her lover. Delicious agony.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

William Faulkner. At first I was bored, but then I waited and saw his genius.

What book have you read that has most influenced your life?

The Bible. Hands down. Still influencing my life every day.

Who are your favorite writers?

Edith Wharton, Stephen King, Ken Follett, Stephenie Meyer, Dan Brown.

What do you read on holiday?

Usually, only travel books pertaining to where I’m going. When I take vacations they are typically filled with sightseeing so there isn’t much time to read.

Which author (living or dead) do you think is most underrated?

There are so many, in my opinion, but that’s just it… it’s my opinion and others might disagree. I’m just glad we have libraries so everyone can find something of value that suits their tastes.

Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?

I won’t say that any author is really overrated because at least they’re putting something of themselves out there, which is great! I will say that I won’t read authors who don’t actually write their own books, so there’s that.  

What is your favorite book published in the past twelve months?

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts. It was fun, it was unusual, and the characters were charming, PLUS it gave some cool descriptions of Boston.

Did your parents read to you when you were young?

All the time and I love them for it.

Which book have you given most frequently as a gift to others?

Oh, the Places You’ll Go, and Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her?

Which fictional character would you most like to have a drink with, and why?

Bridget Jones, because I like her just the way she is, which means she’d probably like me just the way I am, too.

Where do you buy your books?

I don’t buy many books because I’m trying to Marie Kondo my house now that the kids are out, but when I do, Barnes and Noble or Amazon. It’s a shame so many of the bookstores have gone out of business now. I still love to go and browse and my options are so limited.

What impact can a book have on the reader?

Books change lives, it’s that simple. They allow you to escape, to learn about the world, to see possibilities, to change your perspective and, most importantly, to have experiences that your life might never bring. I could easily live without T.V. and movies but books—no way.

End of Interview

Monica Dombrowski is the Executive Director of the Sycamore Public Library in Sycamore, Illinois, where she oversees library operations, a staff of 26, and an annual budget of $1.3 million. Monica was a 2017 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, is a member of ILA’s Public Policy Committee, and currently serves as chair of PLA's Digital Literacy Committee. Her passion is building community partnerships to extend resources and bring library users educational and engaging programs and services.

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“Cody's reviews come sharp and to the point, displaying a vast wealth of knowledge all things book-related, from fiction to non and everything in between. With a side dish of social satire, outright sarcasm or even both, he serves as an exemplary model for the modern day book critic.”
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